LERWICK Harbour has seen an eight per cent rise in all activity in the first six months of 2014 thanks to increases in cargo, passenger numbers and mackerel landings.
The harbour continues to thrive thanks to a boom in the oil and gas industry – including the presence of several accommodation ships to house those working on the construction site for Total’s new gas plant – and a healthy trade in visiting cruise ships.
The total for all cargoes handled at the port is up eight per cent on the same period in 2013, while the combined number of ferry and cruise ship passengers has risen by nearly 14 per cent.
In all 2,230 vessels arrived, down 11 per cent which Lerwick Port Authority (LPA) puts down mainly to a decrease in fishing vessels. That is also reflected in declining whitefish landings due to bad weather in the early part of the year, vessel refits and boats being on charter to the oil industry.
Vessel tonnage was down 10 per cent to 5.5 million gross tonnes, principally due to an expected drop in offshore industry bulk carriers and pipe-burying vessels.
The decrease was seen in the forecast drop in oil-related vessel tonnage, down 24 per cent to 1.4 million gross tonnes. But oil-related arrivals held steady, at 307, as did offshore industry cargo – less than one per cent down at 92,135 tonnes.
LPA chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “The nature of offshore projects means that the scale and type of traffic fluctuate[s]. The reduced ship tonnages were forecast and are partially offset by the long term presence of a significant tonnage of accommodation vessels housing construction workers at the Shetland Gas Plant.
“The deep water port continues to be busy supporting major development and decommissioning projects.”
She added: “The sustained high level of other offshore activity and increased cargo and passenger figures are all positives. There was a welcome boost to winter mackerel landings at the start of the year, although the autumn fishery may be more modest due to poor international markets.”
Biennial refits to Serco NorthLink’s two ro-ro ferries and bad weather disruption saw passenger numbers reduced from January to March, but figures rebounded in the second quarter to deliver a 13.8 per cent increase to 78,894 passengers for the six month period.
Ferry passenger numbers rose by 3.5 per cent to 60,479, while cruise ship passengers leaped up 70 per cent to 18,415 – the 25 cruise ships calling in Lerwick representing a 39 per cent rise.
Fish landings were up 25 per cent in volume and 35 per cent in value, the 37,091 tonnes landed worth some £35.1 million.
Whitefish landings, at 4,676 tonnes valued at £7.1 million, showed a drop of 19 per cent in volume and 17 per cent in value, with the price per tonne increasing by 2.7 per cent to average £1,528 per tonne.
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